is river cruising for you?

cruising in Cachem (c) 2021 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

We've just returned from a river cruise on the Rhine and Moselle rivers. This being the first European river cruise we've ever taken, Claire and I have been reflecting on the experience. Here are my takeaways.

1. Why we chose Tauck, not Viking... Everyone knows about Viking river cruises as they advertise extensively. If you watched Downton Abbey, you've seen their television commercials and marveled at the shots from the air of cruise boats rounding scenic river curves beneath picturesque castles. Viking offers a fine product, but I feel Tauck's is better. Two reasons:

a) larger cabins and fewer passengers — Riverboats are all the same size (135m long), but Tauck has larger rooms and the fewest passengers onboard of any river cruise company (130 on Tauck vs. 190 on Viking). The standard double Tauck cabin is 225 square feet while Viking's standard stateroom is just 160 sq ft. The extra living space is a definite plus.

b) truly all-inclusive — Virtually everything is included in Tauck's fare: three full meals a day (and great food, btw); all your cocktails, wine, and beer any time of day; every available shore excursion; and all gratuities. The only things you'll ever pay for are laundry services, items purchased from the gift shop, and spa treatments (and the spa receipt reminded us that the gratuity had already been taken care of). Viking, by comparison, does not include gratuities. You'll pay for cocktails ... and for wine and beer not consumed at lunch or dinner. You'll also have to pay for tours other than the one included choice in each port.

sun dappled hills in Bacharach (c) 2021 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

2. What's a Tauck river cruise like? River cruises combine the best of land tours and ocean cruises. 

a) Like an ocean cruise, the best thing is packing and unpacking just once. Once settled into our amazingly well designed cabin, we put our hanging clothes in the closet, our folded clothes in drawers, our toiletries in the bathroom, and our empty suitcases under the bed, and we were all set for the next 15 days and 14 nights. We had breakfast, lunch, and dinner in Compass Rose (the main dining room) and could get snacks day and night from the bar or the smaller lounge at the front of the boat. As previously mentioned, all beverages are complimentary — even cocktails. Wines for dinner were well curated, and every evening the maitre d' would discuss that evening's wine selections.

b) Like a land tour, you'll never have to worry about logistics. There were multiple options for land tours every day in port, and all options were included. Some guests had even requested a special tour to some World War 2 sites, and Tauck arranged those tours on a complimentary basis. Another Tauck bonus: you won't be crowded onto a bus filled to capacity. There were just 48 passengers on board, and though we all could have fit into a single bus, at least two busses were always provided to accommodate us.

3. What did I learn about river cruising? 

a) You don't have to go with the program or stick with the group. There may be days when you'll want to take Tauck's bus into town but, instead of joining the walking tour, pursue your independent interests. If there is a notable art or historical museum, go there and spend as much time as you'd like. If there's a famous cathedral or picturesque church, visit it on your own. Especially if you're in town on a Sunday, find out in advance the hours that you can visit as a tourist or attend mass. Bottom line: you can follow your own travel dreams, even on a river cruise.

b) Take advantage of opportunities for bike rides. Tauck provides e-bikes for its guests, so I signed up for a 20 mile ride along the Moselle River. It was a beautiful day, and we rode on a paved lane reserved just for bikes and pedestrians. Stopping along the way, our guide told us stories about the castles perched high above the river (see the photo above). Tauck also treated us to a coffee and pastry stop in the middle of the ride ... and some wine tasting at the end while we waited for the boat to catch up to us.

c) Choose a river cruise with an appropriate activity level to accommodate your needs. Consult with your travel advisor to find the right cruise for you. Are you fit? Do you enjoy strenuous activity? If so, you won't be satisfied with cruises that offer "low" activity excursions. Conversely, "mellow yellows" will be unhappy if the choices involve a lot of walking and changes of elevation.

d) Spend several pre-nights in your destination before boarding the cruise. This will give you a chance to adjust to the new time zone and experience more of the first city on your itinerary. It also eliminates the worry of missing your cruise departure if your flight is late.

Happy river cruising!

copyright (c) 2021 by Ourisman Travel LLC.  All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member.

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